Author Ravi Sundaram had once raised a question about the existence of cinema in the present situation in ‘Film and Cinema in the Contemporary Media Landscape.’ Does cinema still exist? Or is it a fragment of a graphics and photoshop?
Technology has indeed replaced celluloid with digital art. Film, which was earlier available only at the theatres, has become an object of consumption. The ‘cable’ boom was the first huge leap that narrowed the relationship between the spectator and the theatre screen.The laptops and tablets gradually replaced the television screen with little help from the ‘torrent’ culture. So what is cinema now? One may also call it a commodity going by the multiplex expansion.
The digital age has exposed certain behavioural patterns in the present age - the consumer practises inside a multiplex - a tub of popcorn, two burgers and a coke are a part of the film now. So much so that one may doubt whether the producer has a stake in it.
However, the public space is a new elite culture which lies somewhere in the middle of America and India. The presence of the digital can be best exemplified with films like ‘Dev D’(Anurag Kashyap, 2009) based on ‘Devdas’ which has been done to death. Anurag Kashyap painted the text with layers of colours to make it look postmodern. He camouflaged Dev from two generations- one from Bimal Roy’s script and the one in his film, the result of which came out in the Saigal-like voice chanting ‘Emosnaal Atyachaar’ amidst the sound of modernity acting as a critique to the popular culture.
The scene where the assassination of Gandhi is shown in ‘Hey Ram’ (Kamal Hassan,2000) is another expression of the digital media cementing its domain in the world of cinema. The freeze frames and the digital simulations in the scene where Mahatma Gandhi is shot is video-game like.
The climactic situation in that scene has Mahatma flying backwards in a manner which is usually used for action scenes and stunts.The seriousness of the sacred Mahatma is dismissed when he along with his charkha becomes no less than Max Payne (a popular PC game).
Its influence was also seen in ‘Nayak’ (Shankar, 2000) - the story of which revolved around a journalist turning into a politician to eradicate corruption from the state of Maharashtra. The MTV style montage saw the hero being disneyfied. The protagonist, smudged with mud, was fighting the goons where there was a series of cuts in one single shot with heaps of visual effects. He fights the goons in a hyper-real combat sequence showcasing high-wired bodies very similar to ‘The Matrix’ (Andy Wachowski and Lany Wachowski,1999).
Later in the film, the digital images come back in the song ‘Saiyaan’ where Shivaji appears in the traditional attire of a Hindu king. The editing pattern seen in the sequence is the result of the monarchy of digital media in modern day cinema.
The promo of the film ‘Hey Ram’ saw Kamal Hassan advertising computer graphics and 3D artwork. The visual had him look like he was preparing for a fight,his arms were in motion which fell back and forth,giving an impression that he had many hands. The techno-culture is using the celluloid as a medium to improvise and one wouldn’t be surprised if visual art is sold in a nearby grocery store within the next few years.